Philippe Coutinho's been a regular since Ousmane Dembele got injured. Even after his poor showing at Levante in the Copa, when a penalty won by Denis Suarez masked his showing, Ernesto Valverde's shown confidence in him. In the next game against Eibar, he started, showing shoots of recovery.
The Brazilian seemed to gain confidence in the Copa comeback against Sevilla when he scored twice. One of those goals, a penalty, was a sign of Lionel Messi's generosity. But the great players have to turn up on the big stage against the big teams. And against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Coutinho did not exist.
At the very least he did not look like the most expensive signing in Barça's history. Sooner or later we will have to speak about it. Coutinho's obliged to make the difference, especially when Lionel Messi's not playing.
Playing on the left, like always, he seemed shy, lacking luck and bettered by Dani Carvajal. The worst thing is not that things don't come off, but the amount of balls he loses and doesn't win back. It was not his night at all. Not in any sense: link up, creation, finishing, passing...
The fans grew tired and so did Ernesto Valverde, who had no choice but to replace him with Messi on 63 minutes. In any other circumstance, Malcom would have been hooked, but it was obvious the underperformer was Coutinho. In his pros, only two shots, from distance, one off target and the other easily saved.
Much more has to be demanded from Coutinho, a player who's letting chances pass him by. And now, with Dembele about to come back, Valverde may not give him many more.